Debt ceiling hikes included policy ideas in the past
October 7th, 2013
07:28 PM ET
9 years ago

Debt ceiling hikes included policy ideas in the past

(CNN) – While the White House vows it doesn't want to set a precedent negotiating policy proposals to be included in a debt ceiling increase — calling it extortion - there have been discussions in the past surrounding such a hike and Congress has attached other issues to raising the limit a number of times.

The House and Senate, in November 1989, agreed as part of a debt ceiling increase to repeal a tax rule approved three years earlier barring discrimination in employer-paid health insurance plans.

After threats of default and many meetings between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders in August 2011, an increase in the debt ceiling in three stages was included in the Budget Control Act.

That law imposed automatic spending reductions known as sequester, established a joint committee on deficit reduction, and required a vote on a balanced-budget amendment.

There also were votes in the 1970s and 1980s on the debt limit, which included requirements for a balanced budget vote, a cigarette tax and the push for an alternative minimum tax.

“Listen, the debt limit is right around the corner. The president is saying, ‘I won't negotiate. I won't have a conversation’ even though President (Ronald) Reagan negotiated with Democrats who controlled the Congress back then, even though President George Herbert Walker Bush had a conversation about raising the debt limit.

“During the Clinton administration, there were three fights over the debt limit,” House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) told ABC News on Sunday. “I don't want the United States to default on its debt. But I'm not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up. It would be irresponsible of me to do this.”

The White House says, unlike previous occasions, this time there are preconditions set by the Republicans attached to any debt ceiling hike.

Some House conservatives still want to see changes in Obamacare tied to any hike, while Boehner wants discussions relating to entitlements and the deficit.

For his part, Obama has said he will negotiate over the budget and other issues but will not tie that to the debt ceiling because of a precedent it will set.

“What I’ve said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don’t get 100 percent of their way, they’re going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America’s debt so that America for the first time in history does not pay its bills. That is not something I will do. We’re not going to establish that pattern,” Obama said on Monday.

“We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations,” he said.

Since March 1962, Congress has enacted 77 separate changes to the debt limit, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. Between April 1993 and this year, there were 15 increases approved by Congress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney argued Monday the 2011 increase, which came after Republicans demanded a reduction in federal spending, included the deep automatic, across-the-board sequester cuts that he said have hurt the economy.

“Only in 2011 was a process engaged in where one party decided to use the raising of the debt ceiling as leverage to try to get political demands to the point where they threatened default,” Carney said. “There were profound negative consequences to that strategy. And that is why the president has taken the position he’s taken.”

Kevin Hassett and Abby McCloskey of the American Enterprise Institute last week wrote in a column for the Wall Street Journal 60% of debt limit increases that included other legislative items came in Democratic Congresses while 15% came in Republican-led ones and the remaining 25% were in divided ones.

“Debt-limit votes have provided a regular vehicle for legislation. Divided governments have a difficult time passing anything. Since the consequences of government default are so severe, debt-limit legislation has always passed in the end, and it has often included important additional legislative accomplishments,” the pair wrote.

Filed under: Congress • national debt • White House
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. A True Conservative

    Mr President – do you even know how to negotiate? I'd check to see if you passed that class in college....but I can't since you won't release any information regarding your education. Maybe you only took the class that taught you how to vote "present". After all, you seem to think that all you need to do is show up.....

    October 8, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  2. Steve- Illinois

    Ouch! The truth hurts, doesn't it Dems.

    October 8, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  3. ST

    I have an idea to sort the impasse out.

    President Obama warrants on half the democrats in the house that they will not during the remainder of his term elect a Democrat speaker to replace Boehner. As a result, Boehner does not need to keep the fruitloop Tea Party on side. This leaves (I hope) reasonable people of both parties to work together (the house and the senate) for the good of the country and in a manner which represents a compromise of GOP and Democrat policies.

    Win win.

    President Obama leads this coalition and in doing so becomes more than a lame duck president ham strung by GOP politics.

    The mainstream of the GOP distance from the Tea party which gives them a sporting chance at the next presidential election (i.e. by no longer being the 'stupid party').

    October 8, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  4. Data Driven


    "Thanks for providing some balanced reporting"

    Well, I'm sure you're delighted with CNN these days. If you prefer to think that the "tea party" are NOT rebels stirring insurrection in the United States, well, CNN can provide all kinds of false comparisons from the past to our current crisis.

    Hey! In the 1980s, politicians talked about cigarette taxes! See? Same thing as today!

    October 8, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
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